Posted in Nostalgia Lane

Gabriel Knight 2: Wagner scavenger hunt

(This is part of my journey playing through Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

With Gabe transforming into a werewolf and Grace dealing with a live pigeon stuffed into her coat, our heroes are dire straits.  Not the band, the danger. Grace hops in the car to go assemble the lost Wagner opera.

ch1Grace first makes a pit stop at a Catholic church/shrine where people come to petition the Lady for help to be cured.  It would be really hilarious if she left a little werewolf statue as a prayer, but nothing doing.  The place has something to do with Ludwig, but the mute monk inside isn’t really helping with answers.  At least she picks up some holy water, which will be great when we reach Castlevania.

ch2Grace heads back to Neuschwanstein to get those pesky Wagner opera sheets.  To distract the guard, she pours out the holy water onto one of the antique chairs and then frames it on a kid when a guard shows up.  Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.  Lying that kids are peeing on priceless treasures by dousing them with sacred liquids.  I’m honored to be part of this game experience.

ch3Grace resteps the dream that Gabe, finding each of the opera sheets hidden around the castle.  There’s a bit of stealth and sneakery involved with grabbing them so that the guards don’t see, but it isn’t much trouble.

ch4This is where Grace’s stealth pigeon comes into play.  She lets it out into the castle — why not, really? — and that distracts one of the guards so that she can swipe the final opera sheet.  Meanwhile, just think about all of the bird diseases that the two humans now share, having fondled that disgusting sky rat.

ch5With the opera in hand, Grace needs to get the final part and I guess that has to do with this church.  She wheedles Gerde into allowing her to take the silver heart that Gerde put on Wolfgang’s tomb, because what’s a little grave robbing between friends?

ch6Having gotten a taste for desecrating the dead, Grace has no intention of stopping.  She prays to the Lady at the church, who obliges Grace by sending a strong wind to blow out all of the candles and give Grace enough time to plunder an urn for the final directions that Ludwig handed that old lady in the flashback.  Grace rushes over to her boyfriend Georg with the opera, and two months go by…

Posted in General

Five video game genres that I stopped playing and why

It’s weird when you look back at your life and see how you’ve changed, grown, and sometimes simply stopped doing things you used to be really into.  While I’m just as crazy about adventure games, RPGs, and many strategy titles as I ever was, I freely acknowledge that there are types of video games that have long departed my sphere of interest.  Here are five genres that I’ve stopped playing and why:

rts1. Real-time strategy

Starting with Dune 2 and the C&C series in college, I was seriously hooked on RTS games.  They offered a high level of replayability and strongly appealed to my lack of twitch-based gaming habits.  Building up a huge base and engaging in epic battles was so much fun, and I played them pretty hard until 2002 or 2003.  There wasn’t anything that made me up and quit them, I just moved on.  I guess I felt that I had been there, done that so many times and the field hadn’t really advanced much.  Prettier graphics and better controls, sure, but where was the innovation?  Starcraft 2, Tiberian Sun, and pretty much all of the other entries since the mid-2000s didn’t tempt me into going back.

sports2. Sports

You know how you sometimes get wrapped up in a hobby or interest that’s contrary to your own inclinations but you do so anyway because people you like are into them?  That was the sports game genre for me.  I had a couple good friends in high school who were major sports buffs, so I played Blades of Steel and baseball simulators and golfing games and too many basketball titles to count because that’s what they did.  But as soon as I left for college, I stopped cold turkey and my brain has thanked me ever since.


3. First-person shooter

Man FPS games were the diggity-dawgity bomb!  Wolfenstein?  Taught me all the German I ever needed to know.  Doom?  Made me think long and hard about the perils of space exploration.  Heretic, Serious Sam, Half-Life (the first, never much cared for the second)… I rode this wave for a good, long time.  I still don’t have a huge problem with them, except that I generally like seeing my avatar more and I’m not into the PvP aspect that most FPS titles focus on.  Trying to play an FPS on a console these days is seriously one of the most painful experiences for a mouse-and-keyboard guy, even though I used to rock at Perfect Dark and Goldeneye.  How much am I dating myself here?

4. Space 4X

I’m aware that there have been space 4X games since Master of Orion, but apart from a brief affair with Galactic Civilizations, I’ve mostly steered clear of them.  Sometimes they seem too complicated and not containing that “personality” that I’m looking for.  But it could also be that 4X games demand so much time and if I’m going to play a game for that long, I’m going to be in an MMO.

bionic5. Platformers

I can tell you to the minute when I stopped wanting to play platformers: When the genre went 3D.  2D platformers on the Atari 2600, NES, and SNES were terrific, but when the N64 and PlayStation started demanding that I master a third dimension, I had a strong and severe revolt that involved throwing a controller across the room and downing an entire Dr. Pepper with a stern expression on my face.  Since then I’ve seen a generation come and go that claimed that Super Mario 64 was some sort of classic, a claim that makes me want to spit like a cobra into the face of the speaker each and every time.  That boxy, ugly, misshapen thing?  Nay, give me Super Mario World and make it double, please.

It’s pleased me to see that 2D platforming has come back into vogue, especially on mobile devices, but my reflexes aren’t as sharp as they were when I was a teen and I don’t have as much patience for them any longer.

Posted in Music

Sorting through musical history

I began collecting MP3s back in… 1999, it was?  I remember converting my old CDs and downloading new tunes on Napster via a dial-up connection (one song in 10 minutes… what futuristic technology is this?).  Since then my collection has certainly grown, although mostly I’ve specialized in soundtracks (movies and video games).

It’s also become a huge, bloated mess.  I have a decade-and-a-half of files sitting in various folder categories, and while some are quite organized, others haven’t been touched since I originally attained them.

So one of my recent projects is to listen through and sort out my “pop/rock” folder which contains some 2,000 tracks.  Going through the folder has horrified me how slapdash my previous approach was, since most of these songs haven’t been formatted according to my current (post-2007) scheme.  Some have song titles first, then band names.  Some don’t have band names at all.  Some are all in lower-case.  And so many of them I didn’t bother to rate, which is a quick visual indicator how good I think a song is (one + for good, two ++ for favorite, nothing for adequate).  I don’t even remember ever downloading quite a few of these songs or what I was thinking for keeping them for so long.

I’ve been deleting, renaming, and re-rating a lot of them, which should feel really good once it’s all said and done.  Next up after that with my music projects?  Finishing listening through the Elder Scrolls Online soundtrack and then going through 250 new video game music tracks from the latest Game Music Bundle.  Hey, $10 for 250 tracks is too good to pass up!

Posted in The Secret World

The Secret World: A fistful of bees

Our Monday night Secret World group reconvened to tackle the second of the four investigation missions: Immersion, AKA “The Game.”

game1The mission started out with one of the very few alive Orochi in the game, this one in the camp in Scorched Desert.  I didn’t really catch the purpose behind this mission, other than to grab an Orochi tablet and try to make contact with Tokyo.

Once we connected with Orochi headquarters, the tablet started us playing “The Game v1.0” — a bonified, electrified, genuine text adventure game. In an MMO. Yes, chalk this up to another thing you’ll never see in any MMO other than this one. It’s a pretty robust game despite having a rather weak text parser (sometimes you have to be very precise in what you’re asking). The weird thing is that the entire game mimics the world — what happens in the text game and the places it describe can be found outside of The Game. This is actually the point, as you need to play through each leg of The Game to find where the SD card with the next version is hidden. We ended up hopping all over the world, from London to New England to Korea.

Despite the occasional frustration of “what do I do now?” The Game was pretty entertaining. It was fun to do while chatting in a group, because we were able to groupthink it and laugh about the funnier lines. And we died a lot — once on purpose because the quest demanded it.

The encounter with the Hive Hum — the bees — in The Game gave me chills, especially as the bees themselves seemed to be very aware of the meta nature of this exercise.

Best line ever? I agree.

I can only imagine how long it took this developer to make The Game and how much of his or her sanity was sacrificed in doing so. It’s a pretty lengthy quest, with five versions of The Game needing to be found.

The Game eventually led us to one of the Council of Venice “holodeck” rooms, which started up and displayed a few eerie messages before shutting down.

And the last word displayed before the quest closed out was the name “John.” Who is John?

One other thing: Each stage of The Game gave you passwords to continue into the next stage, and these passwords seem to be telling us a lot about what’s to come:

Posted in Nostalgia Lane

Gabriel Knight 2: Reunited at last!

(This is part of my journey playing through Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

gr1The final chapter of the game (stick with me — we’re on the home stretch now!) begins with a long, trippy sequence.  First there’s a portion where Grace is making out with Ludwig II who then transforms into Gabe.  Then Gabe has “last week on Gabriel Knight 2” flashbacks to everything we just saw in the last chapter, with an emphasis on two wolves and the Black Wolf and DUDE VON GLOWER IS THE REAL ENEMY.

gr2Then Gabe falls off of his bed and realizes that the bite from Von Zell is most likely turning him into a werewolf too.  Fortunately, Ludwig II — now in ghost form — shows up to Gabe and gives him ghostly flashbacks to show how Luddy hid that secret Wagner opera all over his castle.  Since that music looks like it’s the cure for werewolfism, I can see the path that this game is setting forth.

gr3Finally, Grace shows up and the two have a tender reunion, by which I mean that Gabe shrieks “GET OUUUUT!” and Grace locks him up in the town dungeon.  Theirs is a love story for the ages.

re1Grace is all concerned and Gabe is all regretful and this scene is just so dang cheesy to watch.  I really have started to hate the music in this game, but at least the over-acting is entertaining enough to compensate.  I guess they both know now that Von Glower is the Black Wolf, although Grace doesn’t fully explain why she hauled Gabe down into a dungeon to recouperate instead of his luxurious castle.  Maybe I should give her a lot of credit to think that she’s doing it in case he turns into a werewolf and the dungeon will keep him locked away from innocents?  Nah, I think she just wanted to bust his chops.

After going out to the post office, Grace finds a letter from Von Glower to Gabe.  It’s pretty revealing and corrects a few misconceptions that I’ve had.  Von Glower hasn’t transformed the entire hunting lodge into werewolves; he’s surrounded himself with like-minded people to indoctrinate into his hunting philosophy in the hopes that they would make good candidates for the “change” and become companions to him.  Von Zell was an experiment and that failed badly.  Von Glower hopes that Gabe will adjust well to the change and come hang out with him after.  Awesome.

re2Grace finds Mrs. Smith in the tavern and the two of them have a conversation that’s mostly meant to fill in exposition gaps as to what’s been happening over the past day or so.  They did lock Gabe up in the dungeon for protection and the two say that Von Glower’s death is needed to help Gabe.  But Grace is also hot to go after the lost opera, so she’s got her hands full.

re3Speaking of having her hands full, here’s Grace kidnapping a pigeon and shoving it into her coat.  I find this game’s visual portrayal of inventory acquisition hilarious, since Grace and Gabe are forever putting things into and pulling them out of their bottomless trenchcoats.  So Grace, is that a live bird in your pocket or are you happy to see me?

Posted in Diablo 3, Guild Wars, Lord of the Rings Online

Weekend gaming report

gwwwwwwI had a very busy if scattered weekend of gaming, so here’s what I’ve been up to:

LOTRO: I’ll write up a longer post later on about the continuing adventures through Update 13.  It definitely feels like a much smaller edition so I’m trying hard not to zoom through it too quickly.  If nothing else, it reminded me how much I dislike the visuals of Isengard and am very glad I’m leaving that place behind forever.

Guild Wars 2: Nothing super-special here, just logging in to do dailies.  Dailies definitely seem to take a lot longer after the feature pack drop, mostly due to a smaller selection of options.  Some days I can breeze through them, but I’ve had at least two days where it’s taken me a good hour or more to wrap them up.  My Mesmer is level 41 and more or less doing well.  I haven’t really figured out a build with her yet, but since I won’t even hit the second tier of traits until 60, I have plenty of time to figure it out.  Hilariously enough, I’ve yet to leave the starting zones (I’m on the last one, the Sylvari zone).

The Wolf Among Us: I took an hour and a half to do the third episode, The Crooked Mile.  I really lament how short these episodes are, especially since there are no puzzles to slow down the rapid pace through the story.  It was definitely interesting and kept the twists and turns of the plot coming.  I also decided I must grab this soundtrack if it’s available.

Diablo 3: This actually sucked up quite a bit of my time.  Maybe I’m just in the mood lately for mindless action-RPGing, but dang if it wasn’t a fun couple of sessions.  After poking around a bit on a Monk, I rerolled a new Witch Doctor because throwing spiders on things is far too awesome to ignore.  I even joined a guild (er, clan) and appreciated the more social aspect of the game that’s arisen since the expansion.  Speaking of, I’m debating getting Reaper of Souls, but I think I’ll wait to see if I stick this out through the end of the storyline.  Other than the Crusader class, I don’t think the lack of the expansion is limiting my play experience at all.

Posted in WildStar

My WildStar crew, part 2

And here are my efforts to create fun-looking characters over on the Dominion side of things:

cass1It might just be me, but it seems as though Cassians get better options, especially in the hairstyle department.  Seriously, how could I *not* choose this ‘do?  She’s classy and bossy and has far longer arms than I do.

cass2Well there’s a face that only a mother could run screaming away from.  Since I almost never roll characters with horns, I don’t see myself playing a Draken.  So might as well have fun with the look, right?  In a weird way, I could see this growing on me.

cass3The Chua have some of the best character creation options, I have to say.  You can go super-cute, but you can also ugly/weird them up something fierce.  A chubby Chua with torn ears, a black eye, and snaggleteeth?  I’m kind of in love with him.

cass4Props to Carbine for allowing a few Mechari faces that look far more robotic than pseudo-humanoid.  I really like this “tennis racket” design and the color scheme that went with it.

Interestingly enough, after creating eight characters from all eight races, I must say that Dominion has more looks that appeal to me than Exile.  At least I have options depending on which side my guild rolls!

Posted in Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day: Trait revamp

“Between the level increase to unlock traits (seriously, waiting until level 30 is terrible. If it had to have been changed, it should have been to level 20, at the highest), and the requirements to then unlock traits, I see this as being something that is more likely to hinder and put off new players, rather than make it easier, as was the intention.”

~ Under the Pale Tree

Posted in WildStar

My WildStar crew, part 1

With the WildStar beta weekend and the new patch boasting additional body options and hairstyles, I knew I had to make it my goal to log in and work on my future characters’ looks.  Here’s the crew of possibles that I whipped up, one for each race of the Exile (I’ll do Dominion later on):

wild1Here’s my Exile Human.  Going with the darkest skin option + platinum hair look that I loved on my Draenei back in World of Warcraft.  Long, messy hair over the eyes and a more reserved face to give her an aura of shyness — but I envision her being extremely competant even so.  I chose the most realistic body type that was on the list.

wild2I might have flirted with the idea of rolling an Aurin in the past, but I think I’m well over that.  There are simply no good female Aurin looks — the faces are beyond bizarre and the body types now come in “anorexic, super-anorexic, and chunky monkey.”  So here’s my Fraggle Rock male Aurin instead.  I like how he looks so ticked off at the flowers in his hair.

wild3I’m willing to bet that female Granoks will be one of the least rolled race/gender combos in the game.  Yet I’m actually taking a shine to what I came up with here, kind of an 80s-inspired glam rocker made of rock.  I like lavender and the body type here is a good balance between too huge and too skinny.

wild4Lots of very off-putting options with Mordesh females.  I don’t mind making them weird, but too many of these are too grotesque instead of fun.  So I went with this psuedo-goth, relatively un-tubed look.  Maybe the guys have better options, that’s how it is sometimes.

Posted in Nostalgia Lane

Gabriel Knight 2: Werewolf hunt

(This is part of my journey playing through Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

In our previous episode of Gabriel Knight 2, Gabe stumbles upon a very naked Von Zell eating a very dead person in a very black cave.  This is, I might remind you, also in a game that’s included three museum tours to date.  I can’t complain, the plot is actually moving along!

aaa1Gabe bursts into Von Glower’s room, retching.  “What’s wrong?” Von Glower says.  “You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”

Oh man, that hoary old chestnut?  No, he’s seen mutilated corpses and cannibalism.  Can’t that be enough for today?

Anyway, Gabe takes Von Glower out to the cave to see the bodies (Von Zell has left in the meantime).  And then, because Gabe is a supreme idiot that can’t fathom that this creepy guy in charge of a hunting lodge and who promotes this primal philosophy might actually also be in on the killings, he spills every single piece of information that he knows.  He’s like an exposition fire hose, spraying Von Glower with “werewolf this” and “missing persons that.”

Von Glower declines to notify the police but insists that the two of them hunt down Von Zell themselves.  Gabe agrees.  Did I mention that Gabe is a supreme idiot?

aaa3Because time is of the essence and there’s a killer on the loose, Von Glower and Gabe wait until nightfall (um… why?) and change into the most pompous hunting gear outfits.  At least Gabe has the good sense to be embarassed at how he looks.

The pair head out into the woods (this is all part of a very long cutscene, by the way) and promptly after Von Glower tells Gabe to stay right behind him, Gabe veers off because he hears a wolf howling.  Gabe also has no weapon.  Did I mention that Gabe is a supreme… oh, I did.

aaa4At least Gabe has his ugly talisman that he starts waving around in the dark.  Oh, yeah, flashlights would have been a good idea too.  Well, if you haven’t started listening to common sense now, it’s probably too late.

This begins the cat-and-mouse hunt portion of the game.  Basically, Gabe’s got to find the wolf, use his talisman to scare it away, and guide it to a certain ravine.  If Gabe doesn’t act quickly enough then there’s an actual game over since the wolf rips out his throat.

aaa5It’s just so awesome.  I reloaded and watched this sequence three times, just to see Gabe get his just desserts.

aaa6All in all, this sequence is pretty well-done.  It’s got the right level of tension — especially knowing that you could die — and every time the wolf pops out it’s hard not to jump.  Gabe forces the beast to a cliff, where it leaps on him and takes a big hunk out of his leg.  But then Von Glower shows up and things get a little weird.

aaa7The wolf (Von Zell in werewolf form) stops attacking and gets all anxious.  Then Von Glower hesitates to shoot it, tossing Gabe the rifle instead.  The wolf keeps nodding his head in the direction of Von Glower, miming to Gabe to, y’know, shoot the real threat.  Even if Gabe tries (and I did), he doesn’t shoot.  Instead, there’s just one option to kill the beast, who then morphs back into a dead, naked Von Zell.  Gabe and Von Glower leave the body behind and go back to the lodge to get Gabe patched up.